Standard Catalog of World Coins 1601-1700, Third Edition.
Book Review by Jan M. Dyroff
Chester Krause and Clifford Mishler with Colin R. Bruce II, Senior Editor. Iola: Krause Publications, 2003, Price $65.00.
America’s numismatic heritage begins in the seventeenth century. Those of us from this part of the world are all familiar with the plain and homespun New England coinage, and the Oak Tree, the Pine Tree and the Willow Tree silver pieces. And we delight, I think, in that fact that the early settlers produced these coins pretty much in spite of the law (or at least through a loophole in the colonial charter).
What is significant about the New England coins is that they are home grown, produced by the people here for their very own use. There is a sense of steadiness and sensibility to these pieces. They were not siege money, or emergency money (like the Royalist issues in Great Britain at the start of their Civil War), but rather they were a legislated series made to serve the needs of commerce.
This particular book is mammoth in size, some 1863 pages. With the above lead-in, I want to look at it in light of what it contains with a spotlight on entries for the New World, with particular focus on the English part. The great bulk of the catalog is given to Europe, which was the greatest area of coin issue in the century, notably from the legions of German and Italian states. Many of the thalers from these entities are Baroque works of art, and seeing these alone would make the book worth its weight.
But to return to our part of the world, the British areas are listed under the national name, “United States of America,” which is a neat trick – to reference coins of a century by way of a country that wasn’t even dreamed of at the time of the coins. Maybe it would be better, and clearer, to list them under something like “British North America.”
The Hogge Money of the Sommer Islands (undated but 1616) is listed under Bermuda, which makes sense as Bermuda has been the name of the island from the very start (there are references in Elizabethan literature to “Bermuda” or “the Bermudas” so the name antedates the seventeenth century).
So, under the heading for the United States, we have Massachusetts (with the coins noted above), the Lord Baltimore issues for Maryland, the St. Patrick farthing (1682), the American Plantation pieces (the 1/24 real and the elephant tokens, which were private issues and reference Carolina), and a really curious and extremely rare New York coin with an eagle on the obverse and a tree on the reverse. To view all of these items in the context of the century is enlightening.
For the rest of the America, the numismatic world is Spanish. And there are numerous and well-illustrated entries for all of the mints and the regions of New Spain. This is to be expected, as Spain was the major player of the day.
What bothers me slightly is that there are a few topics uncovered. Again, from the New World perspective, the original “black dog” coin was a fleur-de-lis couterstamped French billon douzain (issued in 1640 for New France, i.e. Quebec, Louisiana and the West Indies). Breen covers this coin. Also, for Spain, at the beginning of the period there was a chaotic series of countermarked coppers (sometime referred to as “tattoos”, though why heaven only knows); admittedly this is a confusing series but it seems to have gone unmentioned.
I think there ought to be a section of the introduction which ties homeland coins with their use in the New World, like the French liards for Quebec, the Harrington farthings for Jamestown, the Dutch lion dollars for New Amsterdam, and so on. It would be an illuminating exercise to pull this data together,
It is absolutely to the point that this book is easy to use, which is a really important consideration. There are copious lists of legends, which help with the German and Italian issues. For more difficult areas, the reference holds up well. Recently I was looking up something I thought was Turkish – it wasn’t but the book helped eliminate it quickly. And when it comes to India, another huge issuer in the period, the entries are well illustrated and clearly presented.
If someone needs to give you a gift, tell them about this book – you won’t regret it if you have a chance to add this latest SCWC to your library.
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